Updated: Nov 22
Your skin barrier is a smart, protective shield made up of living and non-living, stratum corneum cells. Its main function is to serve as an interface between you and the outside world. When your skin barrier is healthy, it acts like a semi permeable membrane, constantly making decisions about what is allowed to enter the skin and what to block out.
A compromised skin barrier is what I call perforated skin. Because it doesn't hold in what its supposed to (water) and keep out what its supposed to (bacteria and irritants), it can become chronically inflamed, prone to irritation and dehydration. Superficial dehydration often means tight, itchy or flaky skin. Deep dehydration leads to wrinkles. When your skin barrier is compromised, it just can't trap in the moisture it needs as effectively, leaving it less able to protect itself against penetration from these allergens, irritants, and pollutants. When your skin barrier is intact, your skin can harness its energy (ATP) on repairing damage and creating healthy collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid. A healthy barrier creates an organized protective shield including healthy epitheleal cells on the surface with lipids like cholestrol, cerimides and phytosphingosine in between these cells that creates a waterproof barrier. When your skin is shifts from a defensive mode to repairative mode, your skin will be in a state that optimizes skin health and longevity.
Common signs of a compromised barrier:
Dehydration: The most obvious sign of a compromised barrier is a persistent tight, uncomfortable feeling. It may feel stingy and overreact to many products you apply to your skin.
Breakouts: Your skin barrier plays a critical role in preventing acne bacteria and inflammation from making a home in your skin.
Accentuated Fine Lines: When your barrier isn’t intact, moisture evaporates quickly out of the surface layers making fine lines around the eyes and mouth look more pronounced. Your skin feels tight and upon close examination it looks crinkly.
Hyperpigmentation: When your skin barrier is compromised, your skin is slightly inflamed, and sometimes your pigment producing cells respond to that inflammation by pumping out more pigment, leading to dark spots or post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.What causes a damaged skin barrier?
So what causes damage to the skin barrier?
Your skin barrier can easily become damaged. Imagine your skin is a brick wall, with the purpose of keeping water in and irritants out. When your barrier is compromised the mortar between the cells (the bricks) falls apart and those bricks become unglued. This leads to water loss and your skin can becomes dehydrated and irritated. Most of the barrier damage comes from stripping your skin of its natural oils with harsh cleansers, acne medication, and acids. Scrubbing too hard, waxing, and using DIY ingredients like lemon and baking soda or applying products with alcohol or fragrance are common culprits for damage. A big trigger for harm to your barrier comes from over-utilizing exfoliating ingredients such as retinoids and peels. It is wise to ask your esthetician exactly how often you should be exfoliating your skin. The difference between one night, two nights three night or more creates different results depending on your skin's thickness and resiliency For glowing skin pay attention to how comfortable it feels.
What makes up a healthy skin barrier?
Lipids: A healthy skin barrier is composed of ceramides, free fatty acids, and cholesterol. These work together to help trap and seal in moisture and are the natural framework for an intact barrier.
A Healthy pH: pH is really important, which is why the skin is often referred to as having an acid mantle. Our skin’s pH should be slightly acidic. As we mature, the pH of our skin naturally creeps up. If we over-cleanse using detergent based cleansers (think foaming) or toners that contain alcohol, or skip moisturizer, we shift the pH into a more alkaline zone that can further accelerate aging and inflammation. We need to use skincare products that are going to bring your pH back down into that healthy range.
The Skin Microbiome: Your skin has trillions of microorganisms living in and on its surface. When they are rich, diverse, and in balance, they work hard to keep your skin barrier healthy. When they are off-balance, that’s when the skin barrier suffers.
Balanced Immune System: Your skin has its own immune system called the skin-associated lymphoid tissue (SALT). So many skin issues result from an overzealous immune system—one that is too revved up and causing unnecessary inflammation. It’s all about having a smart, balanced immune system—one that is strong enough to prevent infection, but isn’t over-responsive and hyperactive.
Best ingredients to restore your skin's barrier.
Ceramides, Cholesterol and Phytosphingosine - If you think of your skin as a brick wall, ceramides are the cement between the bricks that hold your cells together. This combination makes up skin-identical barrier lipids which are vitally important to rapidly revive your skin’s protective barrier.
Orobanche Rapum Extract - Probiotics and prebiotics help to balance out the skin’s pH and keep the microbiome (part of the skin barrier) healthy. This results in skin that is healthy and balanced, and unlikely to experience inflammation. The key to skin longevity lies within the sustained health of your microbiome. This novel extract is a post-biotic multi-repair accelerator which provides next generation, bottom-up barrier renewal; protects and activates barrier cells and their membranes, reinforces and elevates barrier lipids and NMF proteins which instantly delivers long-lasting microbiome protection.
Linoleic Acid, Phytosterols, Phospholipids - This plant-based blend features the optimal ratio of phospholipids, fatty acids and phytosterols for rapid barrier repair and protection from evaporating moisture in our skin.
Niacinamide - This multi-tasking form of Vitamin B3, helps rebuild the barrier, encouraging both lipid and keratin production required for an effective barrier; it increases skin’s innate antioxidants; reduces inflammatory responses due to barrier disruption, soothes visible redness and other signs of irritation, increases hydration, improves elasticity, smoothes rough skin, fine lines and deeper wrinkles, and reduces the impact of environmental damage.
Glycerin - Known as the ‘hydration hero". This plant-derived moisture magnet supports the development of Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMFs) making it essential for a moist, effective barrier and ultra soft skin. It works with cell membrane aquaporins (which are like little trap doors that allow moisture to enter the cell) which then plumps skin from within, reinforcing how barrier cells function.
Jojoba Oil - This lipid antioxidant, keeps barrier lipids fresh, pliable and intact. Studies purportedly showed that Jojoba Oil decreased TEWL (transepidermal water loss) within 24 hours after application and reinforced the hydro-lipid barrier after 14 and 28 days.
Squalane - This deeply nourishing barrier lipid, is non-comedogenic and sustainably sourced from plant sugars. Squalane is derivative from squalene which is naturally found in the skin (although our supplies reduce as we age). It’s essential for keeping skin nourished and protected as it locks moisture into the skin. It’s also light in texture and unlike many oils it won’t clog pores.
Brazilian Gooseberry (Physalis Angulata Extract) - Is a strong antioxidant with proven
corticoid-like effects without adverse results; controls appearance of thermal aging while calming visible redness and other signs of inflammation. Physalis angulate extract helps get rid of harmful bacteria. This is especially helpful for the acne-prone skin. It also reduces redness, itchiness, and inflammation from skin while it improves a healthy barrier.
My Favorite Barrier Repair Skincare Products
Elizabeth believes in "Longevity Skincare", the idea that beautiful skin can endure throughout one's lifetime when utilizing the best that science and nature has to offer. LONGEVITY is a science-based skincare line that appreciates skin of all ages. LONGEVITY by Elizabeth Renee provides hydration, nutrition and protection from environmental aging. Your skin will receive high performance ingredients to help energize and repair its cells, resulting in a healthy skin with an enduring, vital glow.